Copp Wins Air Force Young Investigator Grant

Nov. 20, 2020 - The Air Force Office of Scientific Research has awarded Stacy Copp, UC Irvine assistant professor of materials science & engineering and physics & astronomy, a Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) grant. She is one of 36 scientists and engineers in the country to earn the honor this year and will receive $450,000 over three years for her research involving DNA nanotechnology.

"I am deeply grateful for the support of the AFOSR YIP, which will allow my research group to advance the science of metal-mediated DNA base pairing as a route to significantly expand the toolbox of DNA nanotechnology,” said Copp. “This fundamental research has the potential to impact a wide range of fields, from photonics to bioelectronics to sensing, and I am excited to be pursuing this work within UCI's vibrant research community."

DNA is a powerful tool for nanotechnology, with remarkable sequence-encoded properties that are unrivaled by manmade materials. However, because DNA-based nanomaterials can easily degrade in harsh environments, a new paradigm is needed to enhance the stability and functionality of DNA nanostructures while still retaining their remarkable bio-enabled structure and dynamics. 

Copp’s research aims to exploit the unique interactions of DNA with silver. Silver atoms interact specifically with the nucleobases that make up the genetic code of DNA, and recent studies have found that silver can mediate formation of entire DNA duplexes. The Copp lab will use a combined experimental approach, harnessing high-resolution mass spectrometry, atomic force microscopy and electron microscopy to connect the atomic sizes of silver-mediated nanostructures with their structural and physical properties, uncovering how the DNA sequence programs mechanical rigidity and charge transport in silver-mediated DNA duplexes. 

This AFOSR received over 215 proposals this year for YIP funding. The objective of the program is to foster creative basic research in science and engineering, enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators, and increase opportunities for the young investigators.

– Lori Brandt

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